Happy Birthday, Louis L'Amour
Born on this day in 1908, L'Amour was one of America's best-selling novelists of all time. That's partly because he was prolific (in other words, he wrote a LOT of books). When he died at age 80, all 105 of his works were still in print. Now, more than 20 years later, many of his books are still popular worldwide.
L'Amour's writing is called Western fiction, but he called it “frontier stories.” He wrote some books and stories that didn't fit the Western genre—various adventure stories and even a bit of science fiction—but he wrote so many popular books about the “old west” that he is sometimes called “America's storyteller.”
Cowboys on horses by Remington
Here are some L'Amour quotes I like:
“One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter - who was a child at the time - asked me, 'Daddy, why are you writing so fast?' And I replied, 'Because I want to see how the story turns out!'”
When interviewed shortly before his death, L'Amour said: “I'm just now getting to be a good writer. Just now.”
“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”Celebrate L'Amour
Read a novel or a short story by him. Although his books are found in the genre section of libraries and bookstores, not the kids' section, many teens enjoy the books, and even kids as young as 9 or 10 become L'Amour fans.
Read other Western/pioneer stories. Laura Ingalls Wilder books come to mind...and have you tried Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw?
Watch a Western TV show or movie such as An American Tale: Fievel Goes West.
Watch this animated Lego Western!
Amazing, right? Now get out your Legos and play Western town...or, if you're really motivated, learn how to do Lego animation yourself. Start here.
The Myth of the Old West
A lot of what people picture when they hear “old west” is more myth and legend than real history. Real history is pretty messy. The trailblazers, trappers, and pioneers did both good things and bad things, and the people who were on the land first—the Spanish ranchers and the people of all the various Indian nations—also did both good and bad things. Not only did the good guys and bad guys NOT color-code their hats (or their horses, like the Lego animation) so we could easily recognize who was which, but they were also a little more complex than “good” or “bad”—just like any other human being.
Rodeo Cowgirl by Russell
One problem with the myth of the old west is that it generally stereotypes women and men, “whites” and minorities. Actually, to some extent, the myth leaves out women and minorities! For example, did you know that one out of every three cowboys was African, Indian, or Mexican?
For more info, explore here and here.
Enjoy the Western art of Charles M. Russell and Frederick Remington.
Images are available here and here.
The Outlier by Remington
Here is an arcade game called Mr. Cowboy.
***Best of all, honor Louis L'Amour by writing stories yourself!
What kinds of stories do you like best? Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or realistic stories? Write more of what you like!